Was Star Wars: The Force Awakens the best film of 2015? Yes it was, and that’s a fact that’s not really up for debate. While Episode VII is still in theaters (it earned $1.5 million last week), it arrives on digital media April 1st with Blu-Ray and DVD a few days behind on April 4th. The wait is finally over… again, as millions of fans prepare to make space on their shelves next to the original trilogy.
Journey back to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away to meet Rey, a loner on a desert planet who finds herself at the center of the resistance when a droid carrying a map to Luke Skywalker winds up in her care. Legends become reality as she finds herself fighting against the First Order alongside Han Solo and some new allies. But without Luke Skywalker, can the resistance stand a chance?
The best way to experience Star Wars: The Force Awakens is with this 3-disc Blu-Ray set, which features nearly two hours of worthwhile bonus features that fill up an entire bonus disc. It’s clear that this was a labor of love for all involved, and the bonus features often compare archival footage from production on the original trilogy. Whether you’re a new Star Wars fan or have been one all your life, the content on this release will amaze.
Thanks to store exclusives, those looking for an extra-special copy of The Force Awakens have a few options. Target offers 20-minutes of extra bonus features (streaming through Disney Movie Rewards) along with alternate cover art, while Best Buy has an exclusive steel book case and Wal Mart offers a BB-8 cover. A DVD-only version is also available and this review covers details of that specific disc for those who have yet to make the leap to HD.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is presented in its original 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio. This is a fixed ratio and the presentation does not expand during the IMAX enhanced scenes. It is also only available in 2D, although a 3D release is expected later this year, which may include the fuller IMAX scenes.
Episode VII looks amazing on Blu-Ray, where the full color spectrum from the film is accurately displayed. From deep, inky blacks to soft earth tones and bright lightsabers, Blu-Ray processes color better than DVD can. Not to mention all of the details in this film (which was filmed on actual film!), this is one of the best looking Blu-Ray transfers I’ve ever seen.
On DVD, the film looks soft in comparison. That being said, it’s still a solid DVD transfer for fans who still exclusively support that medium. Detail feels blurred and colors aren’t as effectively reproduced, but if your in-home Star Wars experience has relied on this medium for the past 15-years, you won’t be disappointed by this standard-definition presentation.
The default audio track on Blu-Ray is a DTS HD-Master Audio 7.1 surround track that packs a punch. My subwoofer was so overworked it was sweating by the end of the film and all of the speakers are expertly used to bring you into this world. Other audio options include a 5.1 English track plus a 2.0 descriptive track for the visually impaired, plus French and Spanish 5.1 mixes.
On DVD, 5.1 mixes are available in English, French and Spanish along with the 2.0 descriptive track.
- Secrets of the Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey (1:09:14) – This four-part documentary tells the story of how The Force Awakens came to the screen, featuring interviews with George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver. The documentary begins with pre-production, casting and the table read and then covers all aspects of principal photography, retelling the film’s story along the way.
- The Story Awakens: The Table Read (4:01) – The creative team and cast reflect on the infamous table read along with clips from that momentous event.
- Crafting Creatures (9:34) – Meet the puppets, animatronics and costumed performers that populate the extras and supporting cast in The Force Awakens, including Warwick Davis, Simon Pegg and Peter Mayhew.
- Building BB-8 (6:03) – Learn what makes BB-8 tick in this behind-the-scenes feature about his creation.
- Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight (7:02) – From the sets to the choreography, the climactic lightsaber fight between Rey and Kylo Ren was an epic undertaking to film.
- ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force (7:55) – The technical wizards at Industrial Light and Magic “fill in the storytelling gaps” in this featurette about the computer effects in the film.
- John Williams: The Seventh Symphony (6:51) – John Williams talks about his approach to scoring the seventh Star Wars film, including the challenge of incorporating new themes into the iconic music from the original trilogy.
- Deleted Scenes (4:15) – Six deleted scenes are presented individually or with a “Play All” option.
- Finn and the Vilalger (0:31) – During the opening, stormtrooper Finn stumbles upon an innocent villager.
- Jakku Message (0:47) – General Leia could have been introduced earlier in the film in this deleted scene.
- X-Wings Prepare for Lightspeed (0:22) – This brief scene features dialogue before the X-Wings take off.
- Kylo Searches the Falcon (0:50) – Kylo searches an abandoned Millennium Falcon for any crew members.
- Snow Speeder Chase (0:48) – Rey and Finn outrun stormtroopers in this deleted race through the snow.
- Finn Will Be Fine (0:23) – A medical team takes care of Finn as Rey watches.
- Force For Change (3:22) – Kathleen Kennedy shares how Star Wars fans have changed the world and how Force For Change was created to help the Unicef Innovation Labs.
There isn’t a single bonus feature on the DVD. That disc is strictly the movie and nothing else.
Packaging & Design
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is housed in a standard-sized black Blu-Ray case. Cover art in the case displays the theatrical poster, while the holofoil slipcover focuses on the logo with poster elements inside each letter. The case features a hinged disc-holder that contains the two Blu-Ray discs, while the DVD is on a hinge on the back of the case. Each disc features different disc art and inserts include a digital copy/Disney Movie Rewards code and an ad for Disney Movie Club.
Previews are absent from all three discs, which open on a variation of the same menu. From inside the abandoned star destroyer on Jakku, clips from the film are projected onto the wall on the Blu-Ray and DVD disc movie disc, while behind-the-scenes footage is projected on the Blu-Ray bonus disc.
You can finally stop going to your local theater to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens with this Blu-Ray release that accurately recreates the theatrical experience in your home theater. While the absence of a commentary feels like an odd choice, the rest of the disc pleases enough to make up for its absence. And if you're a Star Wars fan, it's not a matter of if you will buy it, but simply where from.